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Renee Allen, coordinates the Meds Connection program at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center in Arizona.
A brief interview with Renee:
How did you come to be doing this kind of work?
I completed a Master’s degree in Health Care Management in 2008 and was job-hunting when I came across an open position with Banner Health, a top healthcare system in Arizona. It sounded very unique and interesting, so I was excited. At the interview I learned that a local family – the Fitzgerald Family – had generously donated money to the Banner Foundation to set up a program, in honor of their son Ryan, to help people with Parkinson’s disease afford their medication. The program was to be started from the ground-up and housed at the Neuroscience Clinics at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center. I had worked with the Parkinson’s community in my last position so the job was a great fit and I was lucky enough to be hired to coordinate the ‘Meds Connection Program’.
It didn’t take long before Meds Connection was up and running as a statewide medication assistance program exclusive for people with Parkinson’s disease. Our program provides all of the application services for pharma PAPs as well as co-pay assistance and benefits counseling. We also have our own direct assistance program called the ‘Relief Fund’ where we provide free temporary supplies of medications for individuals from our hospital pharmacy. I am assisted part-time by Yvonne – her great work is essential to keeping us running. I also work closely with the American Parkinson’s Disease Association which has played an essential role in helping me to reach out to the Parkinson’s community. To date, we’ve helped more than 280 individuals and procured over $380,000 worth of medication for those in need. We are in the process of expanding to include some other neurological conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis.
Describe a typical day.
My days vary considerably, especially since I do all of the outreach to get the word out about what we do. I attend support groups, community events, conferences and physician offices as much as I am able. While we are open to all patients and providers around the state, there are a couple of physicians with whom I work most closely so I’m often at their offices gathering prescriptions and applications. I spend a lot of time on the phone and reviewing paperwork and applications. This type of work is extremely detail oriented and requires a lot of problem-solving – I find that even the slightest mistake can cost loads of precious time so I’m very careful to double check everything that I do. As the year progresses, we get increasingly busy as people begin to enter the dreaded ‘Medicare Coverage Gap’.
The Meds Connection program is very unique, so it makes for a non-routine day-to-day which I love. I also really feel at home working with those affected by Parkinson’s disease, the people we assist are so wonderful. We are fortunate because within Banner Health there are always exciting things happening and we have many tools at our disposal and options for expansion.
What is the hardest part of your job?
Like anyone in this type of position, I have a hard time when there isn’t anything I can do to assist. It isn’t often, but you do get those calls.
If you could change one thing to make your job easier, what would it be?
We are in the process of reorganizing some of our systems to become more efficient. We had been using an in-house software program to track the applications but as we’ve grown we’ve realized that we desperately need something different. Luckily, I was able to pick out a new system that we will be purchasing and installing soon. This is the key to making this type of position manageable – a good software application and tracking system! Otherwise you can simply drown in piles of paperwork and spreadsheets.
Give us one tip to pass on to other advocates.
When in doubt, pick up the phone and double check. Don’t guess what paperwork you think the PAP will need. Double check your work. It takes a lot less time to get it right the first time. And always be persistent.